Would you rather…?

In my work helping schools connecting students to adult mentors, I’m always on the lookout for good ways to help get both sides talking. One way to get conversation going is by asking good questions. One such type of question starts with, “Would you rather…?”

Would you rather have a rewind button or a pause button for your life?
Would you rather be poor and work at a job you love, or rich and work at a job you hate?

And this one: Would you rather have no one come to your wedding, or your funeral?

Once, I asked this question of some high schoolers, and their answers were largely along the lines of: “My wedding. Who cares about my funeral? I’ll be dead.”

I get it; I see where they’re coming from. But my answer would be the opposite. I’d rather have nobody at my wedding. While it was nice to have family and friends there, when I got married, I really only needed 2 other people: the minister, and, of course, my bride.

(Ironically enough, we’re now living in a time where weddings – and funerals – may have to look something like this for awhile. I recently did a funeral where there were 6 people present – all immediate family. My nephew is scheduled to get married next month. Sadly, he and his fiancée may not have a choice how they answer this “Would you rather?” question.)

But in normal times, if no one came to my funeral, what would that say about my life? If the only people at my funeral were the minister and my family – in other words, those who have to be there – what kind of impact would I have had? If the church is empty at my funeral, there’s a good chance it’s because I lived an empty – even selfish – life.

The writer James Davison Hunter tells of a woman who worked as a grocery store checkout clerk. Not a very glamorous position, certainly, but she recognized that these few feet of space were her “sphere of influence.” So, she chose to love – right there. Everyday she greeted customers with warmth, remembering their names and asking about their families. She would end their brief time together by saying that she would pray for their families.

As a result, her line would back up – because so many people wanted to get in her lane. People were willing to wait in line — when’s the last time you heard of that happening? — because she genuinely encouraged them.

And when she died, years after she had retired, the church was packed for her funeral visitation — as people came to share how she had blessed them in her checkout lane.

I bet I know how she would have answered the question, “Would you rather people come to your wedding or your funeral?” Through her job — one very few would want, and most would just “get through” — she chose to be a blessing.

So, what about you: Would you rather have an expensive, elaborate, picture-perfect wedding (and life)  — or would you rather live your life in such a way that people pack your funeral as a testimony to a life well-lived?

Author:

I’m Jeff Dye. After 16 years on staff at a healthy, outreach-minded church, I currently have a ministry called The Paraklesis Project. In the New Testament, “paraklesis” means encouragement — which is what I seek to bring to churches of all sizes through speaking and consulting.

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